How we got where we got today – revision

My former boss Tony Ageh shared this piece from 2014 on Twitter this morning, calling it “some of the best writing I have ever read on *any* subject, while at the same time addressing more or less *every* political undercurrent and the causes of the issues of ‘digital media’ that we face today.”

It’s an attempt to run-through what GamerGate is/was, and cast forward what we might expect to see coming out of it, and it doesn’t put a foot wrong.

“By design, Gamergate is nearly impossible to define. It refers, variously, to a set of incomprehensible Benghazi-type conspiracy theories about game developers and journalists; to a fairly broad group of gamers concerned with corruption in gaming journalism; to a somewhat narrower group of gamers who believe women should be punished for having sex; and, finally, to a small group of gamers conducting organized campaigns of stalking and harassment against women.

This ambiguity is useful, because it turns any discussion of this subject into a debate over semantics. Really, though, Gamergate is exactly what it appears to be: a relatively small and very loud group of video game enthusiasts who claim that their goal is to audit ethics in the gaming-industrial complex and who are instead defined by the campaigns of criminal harassment that some of them have carried out against several women.

In many ways, Gamergate is an almost perfect closed-bottle ecosystem of bad internet tics and shoddy debating tactics. Bringing together the grievances of video game fans, self-appointed specialists in journalism ethics, and dedicated misogynists, it’s captured an especially broad phylum of trolls and built the sort of structure you’d expect to see if, say, you’d asked the old Fires of Heaven message boards to swing a Senate seat. It’s a fascinating glimpse of the future of grievance politics as they will be carried out by people who grew up online.

What’s made it effective, though, is that it’s exploited the same basic loophole in the system that generations of social reactionaries have: the press’s genuine and deep-seated belief that you gotta hear both sides. Even when not presupposing that all truth lies at a fixed point exactly equidistant between two competing positions, the American press works under the assumption that anyone more respectable than, say, an avowed neo-Nazi is operating in something like good faith. And this is why a loosely organized, lightly noticed collection of gamers have been able to set the terms of debate in a $100 billion industry, even as they send women like Brianna Wu into hiding.”

It feels so weird now through that whole GamerGate business when I was being sent abuse on a daily basis, on an absolute fraction of a scale that the main targets were, that was making it really difficult to do me job, and felt like I was howling in the wind trying to tell people in the media that this was an important and notable shift in the way the internet was being used by people who had grown up in an era when it, chanboards, online gaming headsets and shit-posting always existed.

The way I looked at it, we now had a generation for whom making jokes about the Nazis and using racial slurs and going on about raping people for LOLs online had been what they’d grown up with as the most shocking things you could do. But it was inevitably leading some people to be radicalised and start deciding that antisemitism, racism, being an incel/MGTOW was the way to go full-time.

And I use the word ‘radicalisation’ on purpose.

Governments have poured millions into trying to stop a few people becoming radicalised as jihadists by watching beheading videos. They’ve paid virtually no attention to an entire generation of white kids growing up in the same environment. And a media, mostly staffed at management level by people who thought games were unserious and who didn’t have the internet at home as kids, just didn’t want to engage with it in a serious way.

By the way, the playbook continues to this day. I mentioned on Twitter a few weeks ago in passing being sent death threats or messages telling me to kill myself at the time, and then was doggedly pursued by someone calling me a liar, auditing my Twitter history, bombarding me with messages demanding receipts in bad faith, and because the accounts that sent them have been nuked the burden is on me to prove it or it never happened and I’m a liar etc etc

Read more here and weep: The Future Of The Culture Wars Is Here, And It’s Gamergate – Kyle Wagner